Doctor, midwives to go before mediator |

Doctor, midwives to go before mediator

A local doctor and three midwives are entering mediation to settle a contract dispute that threatens to leave the three women without the ability to practice locally.

The nurse/midwives at Aspen Center for Women’s Health will be entering contract negotiations with Dr. Kenton Bruice, who recently left the center to start his own practice in Aspen. The midwives say Bruice resigned without much notice, leaving them suddenly without a physician, a requirement for prescribing medications and delivering babies.

Although the midwives have said they would like to find another physician to work with, Aspen Valley Hospital limits the number of specialized physicians that can operate. Currently, the midwives have a temporary agreement with the hospital’s three obstetricians: Bruice, and doctors Melinda Nagle and Mallory Harling, both of All Valley Women’s Care.

Before Bruice left the Aspen Center for Women’s Health, he and the midwives tried to settle contract issues such as salary and vacation time. The sides will now go to mediation.

Bruice has said that in contract negotiations the midwives presented him with salaries he felt were too high and that they turned down his offer for salaried positions. He also said having his own practice is something he has been interested in for a long time.

But Linda Viera, co-owner of Aspen Center for Women’s Health, said she and fellow owner Carole Moran had negotiated the contracts on and off for a year with Bruice, and were in the process of trying to get mediation when Bruice gave them 24 hours notice of his departure. She said his salaried positions were “not really reasonable offers.”

“I’m hopeful of something being resolved for what’s best for our office as well as for the community,” Viera said. “I’m still hopeful that the board will make the right decision either way.”

If mediation determines that the women should obtain a new doctor to work at the center, the hospital board of directors still must decide whether to allow a fourth obstetrician to practice at the hospital. That decision is slated to be discussed at the next board meeting on Monday, Sept. 9.

Although Viera has said the center may not be interested in working with Bruice again, she said the outcome for the center will ultimately depend on what comes out of the mediation process.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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